In the West, where comic books are often seen as telltale signs of geekiness, a graphic novel about the government budgeting process might not be the best way to spur youth involvement. Not so in comic-obsessed Hong Kong.
Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah released a manga style comic book Friday aimed at stirring youth interest in the government budget allocation process. The Chinese language-only book's title roughly translates to: The Public Works We Are Undertaking Today Will Bring Prosperity Tomorrow, said Finance Office spokesman Patrick Wong, adding that Tsang was an avid comic reader himself.
In the book, a team of brave teen-age time travelers voyage through history learning how public works projects of the past created the Hong Kong of today. They study flow charts and pie graphs, and learn about supply and demand fluctuations with the same enthusiasm of dragon-fighting wizards or masked-vigilante crusaders in other comic books.
"They will eventually realize that adopting a prudent approach to today's situation will provide a solid foundation for future growth," according to the government announcement for the 120-page comic.
The book is the second in a series started last year, Tsang said in a released statement. "Young people are the future leaders of our community and their interests in public affairs should be cultivated," he said "To encourage them to make suggestions for the budget, we have decided to produce a comic book again this year."
Teens in Hong Kong's Mong Kok and Jordan neighborhood said they had yet to see the book and were unaware their input on the budget was being sought.
Guitar instructor Alex Cheung said his students might read the book for the art, but were unlikely to become interested in government as a result. Anyway, he said, today's youth are far more interested in on-line games than comic books.
"Comics? That's more my generation," said the 35-year-old Cheung.
Some 30,000 copies of the comic were distributed in public secondary schools Friday, each coming with a bookmark showing a cartoon image of Tsang.
The comic is available in both Flash and PDF format here: http://www.budget.gov.hk/2010/eng/cb.htm
Seattle comic artist Jason T. Miles, known for his work Dead Ringer and as publisher of the zine review Profanity Hill, said a comic to promote good governance may seem laughable in the United States and other Western countries, but in Japan and China, comics and cartoons are much more accepted in the adult world. True enough, adults in Hong Kong often carry Hello Kitty or Doraemon key chains or other apparel.
"Japanese and Chinese comics/manga is a familiar form of communication for mainstream culture," Miles said, "as opposed to North America where comics are a familiar form of potential commerce for Hollywood and merchandising companies."